August 3, 2012

Weather…or Not?

Deuth,-Dave-colorBy David W. Deuth, CFSP
President, Weerts Funeral Home

The recent drought has certainly been fodder for many a conversation about the weather. Our early spring was truly magnificent and, as spring goes, fairly long-lived this year. Then suddenly, the switch flipped to summer and it has been hot, hot, hot.

A conversation during a recent visitation naturally turned to the weather, and the comment was made that we live in a land of temperature extremes: hot in the summer, cold in the winter. Few would probably argue that point. Our conversation brought to mind another extreme weather experience during our time in the Twin Cities.

It was October 31, 1991. Halloween. The leaves tend to turn crunchy in the homeland a little earlier than they do around here, and autumn was in full swing. As kids all over the Twin Cities were surely gearing up for the annual sugar parade (aka “trick or treat”), the weather forecasters warned of an approaching front and the possibility of a brewing storm. Homelanders are hardy, though – no one thought too much of it.

I had a visitation that evening. Early in the afternoon the skies turned gray; just before the family arrived at the funeral home, some light snowflakes began to fall. By the time their guests began arriving an hour or so later, it was snowing. On Halloween….? Really?

Glancing outside an hour or so later, I saw that the snow was already piling up. It was the earliest I could ever remember getting out the snow shovel. As guests left the visitation, I was constantly clearing snow away from the front door. By the time the family was heading home that evening, we had six or more inches of snow on the ground and I was shoveling a path all the way to their cars. And the snow continued to fall…

The family insisted that we hold the funeral the following day – even if no one else could make it. By sunrise, a record 31 inches of snow had fallen, and we had ourselves a veritable winter wonderland! Roadways were blocked. Only the main roads were even remotely passable. Every school in the area was closed. Many businesses were closed. And we were about to have a funeral.

The service was to be held in the historic Fort Snelling Chapel, not far from the burial site at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis. The family and the casket bearers met me at the funeral home, and we crawled away in a small four-wheel-drive procession. With the family’s permission, we even exchanged our four-wheel-drive Suburban for the hearse. And I brought a couple snow shovels – just in case.

We managed to make it to the Chapel without incident, but had to wait for a state snow plow to arrive and plow the roadway before we could even enter the driveway. And once we made it that far, the sidewalk to the front door was another snowy matter. The casket bearers and I grabbed the snow shovels and cleared a casket-sized path to the doorway.

Before long, we had the casket and everyone inside. After organizing the family and casket bearers, we began the procession down the aisle toward the front of the beautiful, historic chapel. I couldn’t believe it – we made it. The funeral was actually underway.

And it was then – as I was pushing the casket in procession — that I realized I was still wearing my big heavy snow boots! And I don’t think anyone even noticed. Ever since, I’ve always said that this was the only funeral I’ve ever conducted “with my boots on!”

Perhaps this record-setting winter weather recollection will bring some cool thoughts as we head into August – just in time for the dog days of summer.

And, we all know that it won’t be long before we’ll all be saying….. “Man, it’s really COLD outside!”

Remember Well.